Sometimes a person you evangelize is convinced that he is too sinful to be forgiven. He feels that he is at the head of the line of serious sinners. Though God may forgive others, He cannot forgive him.

A good passage to tuck away in your mind to help this person is 1 Timothy 1:15. Although he may feel like he is the most sinful person that has lived, he is not. That position has already been filled. It is filled by the Apostle Paul. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Two things are worth noting about this passage.

Some would say that Paul is simply being modest, but the context indicates this is not the case. In verse 13, Paul calls himself a “blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.” He was a blasphemer because he not only denied the Lord Jesus Himself, but he also forced others to do the same. When they would not, he persecuted them by injuring them and casting them into jail. The term “injurious” describes one who is an insolent man who, in his uplifted pride, heaps insults upon others and does them shameful acts of wrong. Had Paul’s intentions succeeded, he would have wiped out the fledgling church.

Another reason that we ought to let Paul’s statement stand is that he does not say that he was the chief of sinners, but that he is the chief. Even though Paul had received forgiveness and the office of Apostle, he continued to place himself in the position of the foremost of sinners. The following verse then says, “Nevertheless, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” God converted Paul who led the list of sinners that all others might know that they too could be forgiven. Since he, the chief of sinners, obtained mercy, all other sinners can be certain of the longsuffering of God as well.

Next time you meet someone who is convinced that he cannot be forgiven, take him to 1 Timothy 1:15–16. Show him that God forgave Paul to assure him that He would forgive him.